Unless you are currently preggo, you probably want to skip this post. And if you are “stuffed” as they say in Britain, you probably won’t think that even this novel of a post is long enough. At least that’s how I felt about every cloth diaper schpeel I read on the internet a few months ago.
Ahhh cloth diapers. Such a weird obsession for so many people, including me. Why did we go cloth? Mainly 3 reasons:
1. Babies poop alot, a good 10+ diapers a day in the first month or so. That’s a lot of disposable diapers ending up in a landfill.
Most babies in China don’t wear diapers and when I imagine what the world would look like if they all did, I envision giant mounds of Pampers visible from space. But who am I to get to put my baby in disposables if I don’t want 1 billion Chinese babies in them? Cloth diapering = putting our money where our yuppie, mildly crunchy and earth-loving mouths are.
2. It costs upwards of $1500 to diaper a baby from birth to potty-training.
It’s even more if you are buying yuppie, crunchy, 7th generation diapers like we do. Plus all of those disposable wipes… That’s an insane amount of money to spend on someone else’s poop products. By contrast, even the most expensive stash of cloth diapers will run you around $400-$500 total and if you use prefolds, etc, it can be considerably less.
3. For us, going with one-size pocket diapers has been an insanely easier process to keep our baby’s butt covered than with disposables.
We used disposables for the first few weeks while we waited for him to grow into his one-size cloth diapers. We were constantly running out to the store and then when we stocked up on a bunch of size 1 diapers to bring to China as an emergency stash, what do you know, he’s grown into size 2 and all of the diapers we brought with are almost useless.
Cloth, by contrast, is much more straight-forward. Figure out what snap settings fit his wee little bum, set all of our dipes to that setting, use, wash, stuff with inserts, repeat. No emergency runs to the store, no anxiety over wasting money on dipes that don’t fit. It’s simple. Even the extra laundry is no big deal because, it turns out, babies create A LOT of laundry. You’ll be a slave to your washing machine no matter what, an extra load every other day or so ends up being no big deal.
So the verdict 8 weeks in: we love cloth, all 3 of us. It’s easy for us even in the middle of the night, his butt seems to stay drier and happier even after 6+ hours in a dipe and did I mention that the diapers are so freaking adorable on his little tush?
Before I started cloth diapering I scoured the internet trying to figure out the best kind of pocket diaper, the best detergent, the best storing dirty dipes strategy, basically everything. Here is the low-down on what has ended up working for us though I’m sure things will inevitably change as he gets bigger, poops less, wets more, starts solids, etc.
1. We didn’t start with cloth right away.
One-size diapers like the kind we purchased could, theoretically, fit a newborn, but not our 6.5 pounder. You can of course buy newborn-sized cloth diapers but given the length of time we assumed Will would wear such diapers, we decided it wouldn’t be worth it. Plus neither of us were expert diaper changers before Will; we wanted to make things easy on ourselves while we were mastering the details of, you know, keeping another human being alive and healthy and clean and stuff.
Next time around I think I might want to try prefolds in order to use cloth right away. Cloth is no harder to put on a baby than disposable and having to run out to the store with a newborn and very sore girlie parts because you are down to less than 5 diapers in the house and your baby poops approximately 18 times an hour is a lot less fun than it sounds.
2. We bought 1 each of several brands of pocket diaper and tested them all on our baby to see what we liked.
You won’t know what you like until you have your baby and you are able to try them out, no matter how many reviews you read. I thought Will would be a huge fat baby, but he came out tiny. You can’t plan for a baby’s body type until he or she is in your arms and even then, it changes fast. You also can’t really plan for what you will find most convenient/least taxing during those 2am diaper changes, unless you have experience of course. Worst comes to worst , you try a few, you like one type or brand, and the rest become your “meh” diapers that you can use in a pinch when you get lazy with the laundry.
3. We settled on BumGenius Pocket Diapers
Pocket diapers because I liked the idea of being able to add extra stuffing overnight and the ability to get the diapers dry a lot faster than with all-in-ones. Pockets because pre-folds and covers seemed too complicated for us newbie parents.
The decision to go with BGs was a bit more surprising to me because I was all set to go ga-ga over Fuzzibunz like much of the rest of the internet-diaper-obsessed world.
Keep in mind, what you like will depend on you and your baby, it might be totally opposite of what we like, no biggie. But, in case you are curious, here’s why we liked the Bums:
a. The fleece on the inside is thinner and smoother, not fluffy like a fleece jacket as it is in the FuzziBunz and Charlie Banana diapers. After a tour in our 20 year old washing machine at the Consulate, that plush fleece lining on the FZ and CBs looked all pilled and less comfortable. It also seemed like it would be warmer-no good since we’ll be heading to India for 2 years starting next summer.
b. The section between the legs on the BGs is significantly wider across than on the FZ and CBs on the smallest settings. I had no idea until I compared them side by side, and I didn’t think I would like this feature but I think it helps prevent leaks now and will probably fit him better as he gets older since these diapers are meant to take him up to 35 pounds or potty-training, whichever comes first.
c. The BGs are less customizable and, surprisingly, we like them that way. Whereas BGs have just 3 rise settings to help close up gaps around the leg holes, FB and CBs both have adjustable elastic bands around the leg holes in addition to the waist snaps to better customize the fit. For me, it was just too much for my sleep-deprived brain to think about and since we haven’t had real leaking problems with the BGs it just didn’t seem like an important enough feature to warrant the time and energy to figure it out. For YOU though, this might be great. Again, just depends on the baby and you.
d. FBs and CBs made my baby look a little like a turtle flipped on its back. Picture a giant butt and flailing limbs. They were just way, way bulky on his little bum. I’m sure as he gets older this would cease to be an issue but right now the BGs give us a slimmer, trimmer fit.
4. We started with 12 and ended up buying 24 diapers.
Honestly, 18 would probably be sufficient but we’re going for ease of use and since we plan on using these dipes for any younger siblings Will has as well, it didn’t seem like the end of the world to get a few extra. With 24 I think we can go about 1.5 to 2 days between loads of diapers, probably longer as he gets older and poops less.
5. We use GroVia cloth wipes, flannel wipes, and hippie-crunchy diaper wipe concentrate + water.
Like a lot of people, we’ve found that as long as we are using cloth diapers, its easier to also use cloth wipes. No worries about accidentally putting the diaper in the garbage and the wipe in the diaper pail in the middle of the night this way. They all go to the same place. These wipes are so nice and soft and wonderful that I’ve actually commandeered a few from Will’s stash to use as wash clothes for my face (pre-poop!). Chris and I both love them. We keep them dry on the “changing table” (aka dresser) and keep a squirt bottle with mostly water and about a tablespoon of oil (some olive, some aloe, etc) in it. We just shake up the squirt bottle, squirt a little on the wipe and voila! We only need one wipe for even the poopiest of messes, rather than 4 or 5 with disposables. Another quick note: when using cloth diapers more of the poo seems to stick to the diaper rather than the baby making clean-up even easier.
I should also mention that Will seems to really like these wipes too. He gets this huge goofy grin on his face when we wipe his butt. Or maybe he just likes getting his butt clean?
Basically, I wanted a nice garbage can we can still use after Will is done with diapers. Most diaper pails are at least 40 bucks and useful only for the time your kid is in diapers. Ours was 40 bucks but more useful long-term. We have 2 waterproof liners and when its time to do laundry we just pull out the whole bag and up-end it into the washing machine and then throw the bag in with the diapers. It’s dead simple and minimizes contact with poopiness. The smell is pretty well contained at this point but I’ve got some Bac-Out on standby for when the diapers start getting smellier.
6. We give the diapers a cold rinse in the washer, followed by a hot wash, followed by an extra rinse. Inserts goes in the dryer, covers air-dry or go in the dryer on the “low” heat setting.
Since Will is still exclusively on breast milk his poo washes away without any need for us to pre-wash the diapers. Things will of course change when he starts solids but for now it all works. As far as detergents, I’ve tried Rockin’ Green and Bum Genius and I’m going with Bum Genius these days. Our washing machine at the Consulate is so old and so full of mineral-crud that it leaves rust spots on the diapers when I use the Rockin Green. BUT that is damn fine detergent for cleaning your machine! It’s a great detergent, just doesn’t work here for us. Our water is really, really hard here so we’re also going to be experimenting with all sorts of “stripping” methods in the coming months. Will keep you posted on those.
7. For now, we use newborn inserts during the day and full-size inserts folded over in the front for at night.
During the day we go about 3 hours between changes without any leaks at all, sometimes even longer if he eats, plays and then takes a long nap before I get to change it. We like the trimmer fit for daytime when he’s scooting around doing tummy-time. At night, for now, the double-stuffing in the pee-producing region buys us a solid 6 hours. We went a full 8 hours in one diaper the other night as I was attempting to keep him asleep as long as possible to help wit his baby jet-lag. (He still woke up to “dream feed” a couple of times) Even after 8 hours in one diaper, Will remained totally rash-free and leak-free. Score.
As the volume of his outputs go up over time, I know we will need to make changes to what we use for day and night. For now though, what we have works well.
8. Out and about around town, we bring cloth diapers for on-the-go changes. For 30 hour transcontinental trips we use disposables.
Cloth is totally doable for one or two changes out around town, but we aren’t insane. Cloth-diapering the kid from Green Bay to Chicago to Beijing to Chengdu would have required a whole additional carry-on full of diaper accruements. There are limits to the power of cloth I guess.
9. Not entirely relevant but our kid loves his changing pad.
When I was looking for a changing pad I found this one. The price seemed sort of outrageous but the ability to wipe it clean was very alluring. That seemed like a smart thing to have especially for a little boy since they tend to pee all over the place. After reading about 101 estatic reviews I was sold.
Holy cow, sooo glad we spent the money on this thing. Will loves, loves, loves being on it. Every time we lay him down for a diaper change he gets so happy. He likes being on it so much we usually give him a few extra minutes of naked time on it with every diaper change. Letting his bum air-dry is great for preventing diaper rash and the fact that we can just wipe up any messes, makes it so, so easy. Plus we love seeing our baby all smiley and cooing. Don’t know why he thinks its so neat, could be that it stays nice and warm? That its a little squishy? That the high-ish sides make him feel all cozy? Not sure, just know that it works.
10. Anything else? Just we love our cloth diapers!
Seriously, wayyy easier than we thought it would be. Probably not worth my 5+ months of obsessing. But, then again, obsessing over diapers kept me from obsessing over more scary things like labor?
I promise everyone this will be the only post I write that more than tangentially refers to breast-feeding. There are some hard-core mommy blogs out there that talk at length about boobs and milk and babies and all sorts of stuff you might not normally think appropriate to share with any of your relatives except your mother or a close auntie perhaps. This is not one of those blogs. I try not to do the awkward over-share thing here.
BUT, and this is a big but, while I was spending the past week FREAKING OUT over the havoc jet lag was wreaking on my baby, and thus, my life, I could find NOTHING on the internet about what I was going through. Is there anything in the world more terrifying than googling the cr*p out of something that’s happening to you and coming up with zero matching search results? Is there?
Because in this day and age you could probably google “monkey stuck in my toilet clutching a tube of mascara” and you’d get a hit. At least for a funny YouTube video or something.
But when I searched for “jet lag lost milk supply” and about 16 other similar word combinations, I got zilch. Nothing. Just recommendations to “stay hydrated” while flying.
So consider this post a public service announcement. A way of ensuring that if some other poor woman sometime in the future brings her 7 week old half-way around the world and suddenly finds her milk supply drying up faster than the Gobi desert and her baby totally uninterested in eating, she’ll at least know that it’s happened to someone else, and that it does GET BETTER.
And if you are not some woman from the future freaking out over your baby and your milk supply, you might want to consider skipping this post. I promise we’ll be back to our regular China programming shortly. Oh, who am I kidding. We’ll be back to our regular cute baby pictures programming shortly. I swear I’ll write something about China again soon…like before we leave in 6 months…at least definitely before we get to India next year and I start getting all “relevant” and “interesting” again.
Anyways. Dudes, you’ve been warned. You probably want to read no further.
Before we left for China, I was totally blessed to never have to worry about making enough milk for Will. I was lucky. I probably could have fed 8 babies with the amount I was producing. It was totally not uncommon for me to pump off an extra 5 oz from each side after feeding Will because I just felt like going for a run and didn’t want to deal with the extra weight.
Which is to say that while it occurred to me that perhaps we should buy a can of formula for emergencies before going to the land of poisonous, melamine-spiked baby formula, at 7 weeks my supply just seemed too secure to bother and I quickly dismissed that idea in favor of just stock-piling a ton of pumped milk as soon as we landed. TEMPTING FATE WE WERE.
We landed on a Thursday night at 11:30pm after 30 hours of travelling. Chris worked the entire next day plus a reception until 9pm while Will and I just sort of wandered around the house in a daze, dozing a little when we could. He was latching on ever 2 hours or so, out of both hunger and comfort so I had no idea what was coming.
I woke up Saturday morning to a, shall we say, “deflated” left side and decided I should probably do some extra pumping on that side to even things out.
By Saturday night, I was deflated on the right side as well. By Sunday, I was down to squeezing just an ounce or two TOTAL into a bottle after 30 minutes straight of pumping. I was counting the tiny drops of milk as they fell into the bottle, remembering how many ounces of milk I’d poured down the drain just the week before because I didn’t need them. How wasteful I was!
Cue total panic. Will wasn’t fussy, but he was also sleeping a lot-except at 2am at which point he was wide awake until 6, but that’s besides the point. Every time he nursed, he’d end the session asleep.
It didn’t seem like he was getting enough but it also didn’t seem like he wanted more. He was totally disinterested in sucking down anymore than I was providing but the problem was I knew I wasn’t providing enough. MY baby is a little glutton who likes to eat until there are streams of milk running down his chin. What had happened to him? And worse, was my supply gone for good? Would it come back whenever his appetite did?
It was a big WTF, pulling my hair out sort of 5 day nightmare.
And, as I mentioned, Google was NOT helping. There was nothing there to tell me what to do, when things might get better, nothing at all about jet lagged little babies. Probably because there aren’t that many people crazy enough to do it, but still. I was hoping for some reassurance that I wasn’t a) totally out of milk for good; and b) the worst mom ever for inflicting a 12 time-zone change on my baby.
Armed with absolutely no clue what to do, I started pumping every 2 hours around the clock, morning and night. I got all crazy-mama, telling every mom I met here about my problem hoping for (and getting) reassurance. I started obsessively requesting weight checks from the nurses’ unit.
I remembered reading that flaxseeds and oatmeal are good for supply so I started pouring flaxseeds onto my morning oatmeal like water. Chris read that low Vitamin D affects your thyroid which affects supply so I started taking Vitamin D chews everyday.
I put off exercising, I drank gallons of water and ate as much as I could. I even tried positive self-talk and imagining pumping bottles full of the good stuff.
Oh and I also stressed. way. the. flock. out.
And worse, nothing worked. Pumping did nothing to increase my supply, nothing at all. Even though I still seemed to be producing enough to satisfy Will’s highly diminished appetite, the fact that my supply had dropped so fast and so dramatically scared us both.
Breast is best but at least if your milk supply nose-dives in the States you know that you’ve got only 1,000 different formula options available. Your baby isn’t going to starve. Here, the safest formula is likely at least 3 weeks away by mail or 3 hours away by plane. A totally terrifying realization to have while one is up in the middle of the night a jet-lagged and stress-crazed mess.
I felt like I was walking around in a bad dream. And my baby just kept hanging on, not fussing but not eating much either.
On Tuesday night I finally broke down and cried. I was a my wit’s end and, what’s more, I sort of had the sense that I needed to have some sort of stress-releasing meltdown.
Sure enough, my supply was a little better the next morning. Not great, but better.
And then, grasping at straws, I thought: what if we could get Will to sleep through the night, just once. Just once in his tiny little life, would that somehow fix things? Would that get him to stop falling asleep while nursing at least?
So Wednesday, after he slept much of the afternoon again, we put him down in a double-stuffed cloth diaper around 9pm.
Will is a cuddly little baby and generally has a hard time sleeping anywhere that isn’t directly on top of me or Chris. At night its the worst. We keep his crib right next to our bed but after an initial 2-3 hours of time in his crib, it becomes a struggle to keep him in there and asleep for the rest of the night. Part of it is a comfort thing I think and part of it is the fact that he seems to reflux after about 4am. We’re working on it. ANYWAYS.
Wednesday night I decided I would do whatever it took to keep the boy sleeping soundly all night even if it meant sitting awake holding him all night.
Which is what I did. He woke up once to nurse and I woke him up once to nurse 4 hours later. He got a diaper change at the 8 hour mark when I felt like I could finally risk it without him waking up too much.
Homeboy slept from essentially 2:30 in the afternoon on Wednesday until 6am on Thursday morning.
And on Thursday morning it was like I had a new baby. He took normal (for him) naps. He ate with a renewed appetite and gusto, wailing for boob at least every 2 hours. He pooped and peed more in one day than he has since he was a few days old. I had to change about 15 diapers and 4 outfits. It was like his system was flushing itself out, like it had somehow found a re-set button.
And my supply FINALLY responded. What pumping every 2 hours for 5 days straight couldn’t do, apparently my hungry boy could. I woke up on Friday morning to some seriously supply. Almost exactly 1 week after we landed in China. I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to feel that kind of pain in the chest-al region as I was on that morning.
So, that’s what happened. That’s the havoc that jet lag can wreak on your body and your baby’s body. Whoever says babies can’t get jetlag LIES. They do and worse, SO DO YOUR BOOBS.
And I honestly think that nothing I did, not the pumping or the Vitamin D, or even the stress-relieving cry fest did anything to help get the supply back up. I think it was just riding it out and getting homeboy back on his “normal” schedule.
So here we are. One week later. We’ve got over 30 bags of hard-won pumped milk in the freezer. We’ve got a baby who still refuses to sleep at night for more than 15 minutes outside of my arms* but that’s ok HE’S EATING. We’ll fight the sleep-training battle another day.
Now we know. Now YOU know. Maybe your situation will be different, maybe it won’t.
We know to maybe expect something similar when we had back to the States in 6.5 months. Or not, maybe he’ll be ok. One thing is for sure though: we’re having the next baby on home leave. That or becoming accountants who never leave America AGAIN.
I’m kidding. Mostly. 🙂
*Update! I don’t want to jinx our progress or anything but let’s just say that until 4am when all bets are totally off and I’m back to defacto baby mattress, Will has upped his time at night outside of my arms to a number of hours that is less than 4 and more than 2. Hooray!
Chris and Will on our annual Labor Day Hike a week before we left Wisconsin. It was a much shorter hike than the one we just took across the ocean.
-Your baby will not need all 150 wipes, 38 diapers, 7 pacifiers, 6 outfits, 5 blankets and the medicine, thermometer, and extra frozen milk you pack in your carry-on. You will, however, need an extra shirt for yourself for when he throws up all over you. You will have not packed this item, however, because you ran out of room in your bag and HEAVEN FORBID YOU TAKE OUT ANY OF THOSE DIAPERS.
-To airline stewardesses a quiet baby is the cutest, most beautiful baby in the whole world and they will tell you so every time the walk by. We don’t know what they thinking of the screaming ones because Will managed to go the entire trip without a single major meltdown. Big Score! On the other hand…
-Even if your kid is a perfect angel, don’t count on getting any sleep because the longer he is quiet the more anxiously certain you will become that a totally-out-of-character scream-fest is just around the corner and the thought of all of those glaring passengers keeps popping into your head every time you close your eyes.
-On the third hand, worries about glaring strangers are overrated and totally made up for by all of the complete strangers smiling and fawning over the delicious lump of sleeping baby on your chest.
-Hello Ergo?? You forgot to include the secret handshake instructions with my manual. Everyone we saw with one of these (awesome) baby carriers either gave us a big smile or shouted (truly) “oh look another Ergo!” Did I miss something?
-Parents travelling internationally with small children are a unique, incredibly strong-willed and totally insane tribe of people. Its hard to imagine a more exhausting endeavor and I don’t know how those families with 3+ kids even scrounged up the energy for the world-weary commiserating smiles they gave us poor newbies.
-I’ve never loved China more than as a new parent. The immigration guy cooed over our baby, as did every security person and person we met from the 20-something young men to the older battle-axes. Plus I think one terminal of the Beijing airport has more family changing/feeding rooms in it than all of the terminals in O’Hare put together. China loves children and it shows.
-Less importantly, Bridesmaids was a totally disappointing movie. I wish desperately I could have slept through those 2 hours instead of sitting awake watching that movie and not moving a muscle for fear of waking up the baby.
-It is completely possible to lose 4 pacifiers in less than 45 minutes on an airplane.
-A former believer that the proliferation of hand sanitizer is basically building the next super-bug, I am now one of the world’s biggest fan. At least until our kid graduates college.
-Jet lag + normal newborn sleep deprivation + baby jet lag = we hardly know our own names anymore. I’ll be back with more when I’m able to speak in proper sentences again